Saving Early for Summer Holidays

Even though spring just arrived, it is not too early to think about and plan for summer vacations. Independence Day and Memorial Day are two of the most popular summer holidays in the United States and many choose to celebrate at home by purchasing food and having a barbecue with friends and family members.

Others may want to visit a festival that celebrates the holiday with music, games and the like. All holiday activities require one to have money. Therefore, a consumer will want to get ahead by saving cash before the summer months come. The following are four tips that a person can use to prepare for summer holiday expenses:

Divide Direct Deposit Funds

The best way to save for a summer holiday is to create a separate savings account and assign funds to the account on each payday. Most employers allow their employees to distribute the funds from their paychecks to various accounts. Designating a small amount of money on a weekly or biweekly basis is an effective way to build a vacation fund.

Perform Odd Jobs

Another way that one may want to save money for a summer vacation is by performing odd jobs. Odd jobs include jobs such as grass cutting, housecleaning, babysitting, web design, article writing and more. The person can place the extra funds in the previously mentioned savings account.

Make Advance Purchases

Persons will want to make advance purchases for holiday reservations such as hotel reservations, rental car reservations, restaurant reservations, festival reservations and the like. The savings can be humongous if the person secures the reservations several months in advance.

Use Coupon Codes and Special Memberships

Coupon codes and special memberships can remove some of the expenses associated with airline tickets, train tickets, rental cars, hotel stays and more. Consumers can receive discounts for having AAA membership or college membership. Additionally, a multitude of coupons and promotional codes exist online. One could enjoy double or triple savings by reserving accommodations early and using special privileges. He or she could use a promotional code during a checkout. The person could use the drop-down menu to specify AAA membership, college membership and senior citizen status, as well.

Summer holidays are always better when one takes the time to save enough money for the events. The consumer should do so by relaxing and saving a little bit at a time each week.

Save Money on a Dream Vacation

Going on vacation is expensive no matter where a person goes. However, some corners of the world are much more expensive than others are. For example, one night at a hotel in Key West, Florida costs about $600 for a four-star or five-star location. Additionally, special events such as boat rides and scooter rentals can end up costing several hundred dollars. The following is some information on saving money on such a trip:

Reserving a Room Early

Early room reservations can save hundreds of dollars. Scheduling a stay for non-weekend nights can save money, as well. The visitor will want to reserve the room approximately three months ahead of time to obtain the best rates. Weekdays are less expensive because many people have to work during the week. Hotels and motels are much less full during those times. The average price difference between a weekday and a weekend night can be as high as $100.

Using Plastic Resources

Credit cards and club memberships can give a person an edge on the pricing in an expensive vacation. Triple A membership can provide a visitor with a discount of approximately 10 percent off a hotel stay. Some credit cards offer points as rewards for normal credit card use. The points can shave some of the dollars off the average hotel stay. Additionally, such memberships and cards may provide the consumer with access to cheap rental cars for the road.

Finding Cheap Things to Do

Finding cheap activities is the key to making one’s funds last as long as possible in the Keys or other expensive areas of the world. All major activities will cost hundreds of dollars. However, a frugal visitor can conduct a variety of activities that cost little to no money. Picture snapping adventures are free, and they can be quite fun. All the person needs is a trusty camera and some fuel to drive around and see the sites. The person can search for monuments, landmarks, botanical gardens, parks and the like. Some botanical gardens cost money, while others only accept donations.

Beach walking is a fun free activity for families, lovers and lonesome people. The beginning of evening is a wonderful time to go outside and watch the moonlight develop. A beach-side sunset is beautiful, as well.

Many money-saving techniques exist. The previously mentioned tips can be a stepping stone or a starting point.

Avoiding and Stopping Identity Theft

Identity theft is a heinous crime that victimizes more than 11 million people each year. The crime includes stealing a person’s personal information to open new accounts, misusing existing accounts, and using personal information for alternative malicious purposes. Identity theft can ruin a person’s reputation with credit bureaus and other organizations, and it can take that person many years to resolve the mess. The following are some tips for preventing and dealing with identity theft: 

Do Not Share PIN Numbers and Passwords

Many people make the mistake of trusting lovers and friends with the PIN to their debit card. The problem with sharing a PIN is that a person who knows it can change it. That person can try to access other cards and accounts using the same PIN, as well. The consumer should trust no one with such information.

Change Login Information Frequently

Passwords to online bank accounts, email accounts and other important accounts should be changed at least once every three months. Once per month is a safer practice if the person has the patience to do it that frequently.

Obtain an Annual Credit Report

A credit report can speak volumes about identity theft. Every consumer should request one free copy of his or her credit report from the bureaus each year. The report will display all open credit accounts. The consumer should dispute any account that looks unfamiliar. The bureau must respond to the dispute within 30 days.

Sign up for Credit Monitoring Services

A credit monitoring service is an amazing tool for identity theft prevention. Such a tool will send a consumer instant alerts whenever someone opens a new account. It will notify a person if his or her credit score changes, as well. The debtor can then take action based on the information that he or she receives from the monitoring service.

Report Foul Play Immediately

A debtor should report a lost or stolen credit card immediately. Additionally, the person should contact the bureaus to launch investigations on any suspicious activities. Sometimes, the credit bureaus can place blocks on people’s social security numbers. No creditors will issue credit to these persons unless they answer a series of questions to verify their identity.

Finally, account holders should log into their online banking and credit card accounts frequently so they can catch strange activities quickly. Keeping one’s eyes open at all times is crucial. 

How to Keep up With Household Chores without Hiring a Maid!

Keeping up with household chores can be extremely difficult, especially when you have a busy life. Children love to spread their toys, crayons and miscellaneous papers all over the house. Some husbands like to leave clothing piles and dirty glasses in various places. Keeping the house together can be even more challenging when you have pets running around, and your workload is heavy. The following are some tips for trying to keep everything together and avoid clutter: 

Clean When Everyone Is Asleep

Avoiding messes and clutter can seem as if it is impossible when everyone is awake and moving around. A tactic that may work is setting the alarm clock for an early time such as 5 a.m. You may be tired at that time, but you will have at least a half hour to an hour to clean up while the rest of the household is asleep. Changing the cleaning schedule can be a very effective way to organize your household.

Perform Sweeps in Between Tasks

Another good way to avoid clutter and keep your house neat is to perform several five-minute sweeps throughout the day. Sweeps are little breaks that you take to remove trash from the floor, wipe down tables and counters, take the trash out, and place dirty clothing where it belongs. You can perform sweeps in between your schoolwork or your home office work. Additionally, you can perform sweeps when the commercials come on during your favorite television shows. You will be amazed at the amount of work you can do in two to five minutes, and your house will be almost spotless at the end of the day.

Pay the Family Members for Their Help

Sometimes the other members of the household need some special encouragement. Children love helping when they can receive a shiny quarter or piece of candy for their efforts. Husbands are likely to help if they can receive treats, as well. You can use your imagination to think of the best treat for your husband.

You can try setting a payment schedule for different tasks and see how your family members respond to it. This method will most likely leave your house neater and relieve you of some of the work.

Finally, you can avoid accumulating dirty dishes by rinsing them immediately after you use them. Alternatively, you can purchase Styrofoam and plastic dishes so that you can dispose of them every time you eat or drink. Styrofoam and plastic dishware is inexpensive, and it can keep you from spending too much time doing housework. 

Banking on it: How to avoid bankruptcy in your near future

When you hear the word “bankruptcy,” most of the time your thoughts turn to large scale companies or retailers that have no choice but to shut the doors and declare to fight (or re open) another day.

But what about bankruptcy as it pertains to an individual, couple or family as far as your financial planning and freedom or lack thereof.

Avoiding bankruptcy is unquestionably paramount, but when that word starts to surface in the household, chances are you’ve missed the warning signs and it’s too late to turn back from a road you ultimately didn’t want to travel.

One huge red flag that you’re headed down the wrong path is taking a moment to calculate your debt to income ratio on a monthly basis or taking into consideration your assets versus how much you owe that isn’t yours.

First, the monthly ratio is simple to figure out and is essentially how you’re judged by creditors and anyone else in line to lend you money. Your debt to income ratio on a monthly basis should be somewhere in the 30% to 70% ratio, respectively, at best. You also want to pay attention to your entire debt, minus the house and the car. This is more about checking into unsecured debt like your credit cards. If you have about $10,000 in your savings account and only a few thousand in your retirement account but are sporting double that in credit card debt, you should start coming up with a game plan to start paying it off and eliminating some expenses from your budget that can get cut.

Bankruptcy also might be chasing you down if you find yourself starting to miss payments one month after another. Missing a payment doesn’t just add a negative to your credit score but also is a huge sign that you are living beyond your means and eventually might not be able to pay your debt consistently.

In addition to missing payments, you might be at the point where creditors are starting to call your home and seeking out a debt consolidation company isn’t exactly going as planned.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to end this way when it comes to your finances as it relates to bankruptcy. It just happened this way because you were most likely careless with your spending but didn’t take note of bad habits that eventually grew into having to raise the white flag on your finances. 

How to Save Money at Yard Sales

Yard sales are events that homeowners and apartment dwellers hold to earn a bit of extra cash. Some people have yard sales to clear their homes before they move, and other people have yard sales to get rid of items after a divorce. Yard sales have a multitude of useful items that a frugal shopper can snag for an outrageously low price. People sell their books, movies, furniture, clothing, electronics, household appliances and collectibles at yard sales. A person can furnish an entire several-bedroom home with only a few hundred dollars just by visiting local yard sales. Additionally, smart re-sellers can find highly discounted treasures that they can flip for a profit. 

How to Find Yard Sales

Many people notify the community of yard sales by placing flyers on light poles. They may also pin up signs at the local laundromats. Daily newspapers contain yard sale listings in the classified sections, as well. Technologically savvy individuals place their yard sale listings online on websites such as Craigslist. A person who wants to visit a yard sale can use the aforementioned means to find out when members of the community will have them. Most yard sales occur on Saturdays and Sundays. A few scattered families may have them on Friday. An ambitious person could wake up on Saturday or Sunday morning and drive around to find random events.

Bargaining at Yard Sales

The prices of yard sale items are already very low, but there is always room for a person to negotiate. The best way for a person to get a massive discount on an item is to leave the yard sale and come back later in the afternoon. Yard sale sellers will be willing to negotiate by the end of the day because their main purpose is to move everything off the tables. However, a person who does not want to risk losing an item to another buyer must act fast. That person should ask the seller the price of the item. Once the seller states the price, the negotiating party could make an offer that is 50 percent less than the stated sale price is. The seller may accept the offer, decline the offer, or come back with a reasonable midrange price. There is certainly no harm in trying.

Yard sales are amazing for furnishing a new home or gathering supplies and equipment for an office. At least one yard sale occurs every weekend. 

IMPROMPTU SCRIPT: Rising costs of medications don’t have to affect your budget

Not all medications are created equal, especially in the eyes of the health care companies that are paying the majority of costs for them.

Consumers who wait patiently on line at their pharmacy of choice are incredibly grateful when they compare the actual cost of the medicine versus what your co pay actually ends up being. That $5, $10 or $20 price tag far exceeds the potential of paying in upwards of a few hundred dollars for one prescription.

But what if you can’t afford health care or you have one particular medication that either isn’t covered or your insurance company only takes care of a small piece of an otherwise large expense. That means you’re responsible for the remainder, and that hefty price tag might be too much for you to handle.

Spending as much on medicine per month as you would on a car loan or mortgage is more than enough to sink any thoughts you might have of saving money.
Aside from shopping around and buying health insurance on your own, that still doesn’t account for co pays on specific medicine that might be too much for you to handle. If that situation arises, you don’t have to sacrifice what money you have stored away or go deeper into debt just to ensure your health isn’t compromised.

You have options that go well beyond taking out a loan to cover these added expenses.

Consider ordering your medication in bulk through a mail order company that specifically deals in generics. Even if they don’t have generics are part of the equation, ordering large amounts at one time cuts back on the overall cost.

As part of your doctor’s office visit, you can always ask the physician for some free samples in the short term or inquire with the office manager about any types of assistance programs, whether those are on the national or state level or done directly with the drug manufacturer.

Some of these programs are directly related to your income and can drastically reduce your out of pocket expense. A $50 copayment, for example, could go down to $5 just by asking a few questions and filling out a bit of paperwork.

And when in doubt, you can always go back to an old reliable: coupons or various promotions offered by the retail. Plenty of weekly circulars from the likes of K Mart and Target toss incentives toward customers in the form of gift cards or discounts if they switch pharmacies. When it comes to prescriptions that become remarkably difficult to pay for, every dollar off counts.

The toughest aspect of medication as it pertains to saving money is knowing that, no matter what, you’re going to need the prescription. How you go about securing them and, more importantly, paying for them determines your financial fate moving forward.

TEAM EFFORT: Financial struggles shouldn’t have to be just your burden

Struggling from one day to the next, worrying about bills and how you’re going to pay them or hoping and praying you have enough money this month to cover all your expenses is the epitome of stress and certainly adds to a daily regimen that is riddled with concern.

So with that, do you really think this is something you should tackle on your own?

A number of reasons may factor into why you believe that you should forage into fixing your finances on your own. Perhaps the mentality that pushes to the forefront most is blame, specifically you accepting it thanks to your savings account and overall portfolio not being in tip top shape.
Even if you are the one that put yourself in this financial pickle doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t ask for help to turn this thing around in a hurry, especially if your significant other also is indirectly involved in righting the ship.

Before you begin working together as a team, there are a few basics you can implore before that moment arrives. You should take stock of the entire situation and truly determine what exactly is causing you the most trouble. Maybe you’re spending too much on entertainment or perhaps that clothing budget is busting at the seams.

After you narrow down your financial shortcomings, you can pull yourself out of the muck that is your checking or non-existent savings account. Being able to broach the subject to your wife, husband or partner as to why money isn’t favorable in your household is a lot easier if you can be specific with the issues and offer realistic options moving forward.

Once you bring the second person on board to help discuss where you want to go money wise, you can troubleshoot together and fully understand their perspective and come together with plenty of ideas that transform into a well-rounded plan that encompasses the scope of the entire household.

Far too often, you want to assume all the burden and tension that is associated with having money and budgeting issues. This isn’t done with deceit or disinformation in mind but rather to spare the feelings of the people they care about and, truthfully, to not look incompetent as the person in charge of the finances.

But not asking for help or getting another opinion is only going to exacerbate the problem and leave you in an even less enviable position: trying to explain not only why things got out of hand financially but how you let this far along without speaking up.

Social Insecurity: How to avoid being broke beyond retirement

Enjoying your “Golden Years” might be a lot more difficult if you’re struggling to stay afloat post retirement.
A growing trend in the United States puts retirees in the unenviable position of attempting to live comfortably after they’ve decided to call it a career. The transition from 40 hours per week to living off the wealth and savings you’ve amassed during your time working has been anything but seamless for a generation of hard workers who find themselves flirting with poverty or forced to go back to work in some form or fashion.
That sad tale has transformed from the exception to the norm. A shocking number of retirees or those ready to retire in the next decade don’t have the kind of money set aside that they’ll need to live out the rest of their life without fear of foreclosure or bankruptcy.
The first mistake that demographic makes is the assumption that Social Security will be enough of a monthly income, in addition to what money they have saved. That fact is incredibly narrow minded and shortsighted, especially if you’re approach the age of 62 and are still carrying debt or paying off your house or car.
Social Security is only a piece of what should be a much larger retirement puzzle as you approach your post work lifestyle. That memo needs mailed out to the masses, particularly the age groups that should start thinking about their retirement at this very moment.
If you don’t already have a 401K or IRA either on your own or through your job, you should strongly reconsider participation, especially if the company matches what you’re putting in as well. It’s hard to imagine anyone balking at the idea setting aside a pretax percentage of your pay, plus what your employer adds to that total.
Let’s say you struggled to save money your entire life, and you’ve convinced yourself that Social Security and the little you do have is going to cut it. That blueprint is a recipe for disastrous results, which is why you should turn your financial misgivings over to a professional to put you on track and make investment suggestions.
And if all else fails, just employ a little bit of logic, and reassess your necessities versus luxuries and start prioritizing accordingly. Eliminating a few spa treatments or extravagant vacations now will afford you the opportunity to breathe much easier money wise later.

Promotion Codes

Coupons, coupons everywhere.  Without the hard copy of the paper anymore, I was not sure what I was going to do.  I diligently went through all the ads to stores I shop at on Sundays and clipped coupons which might help me pay the bills or get things cheaper at the mall.  I never said that being frugal was fun and it definitely is not easy, but I think that more and more people are moving in that direction.  I was watching MSNBC one day and I saw this segment on coupon and promotion code websites that have been helping people save money.  I was really impressed with one offering promotion codes.  It is great and seems like it is run by real people instead of just an aloof figure.

 

The site is really easy to use too, which makes life easier.  I told my mom about the site too and she is not a very technically savvy individual and yet she did not have any complaints, other than wondering why I had not told her about it sooner.  Wish I could have mom, but I only saw the TV spot recently.  You type in the name of the stores or website you want, it has both print out coupons for the supermarket and promo codes for Amazon and many other sites.  One of the best parts is that up in the corner there is a ticker that tracks down how much money the site has saved people.  It is almost at $500,000 and it has jumped up so much in just the short time I have been using it.

 

You get all the details about the coupons and promotion codes: amount, when it expires, and it lets you enter your own coupons if you happen to have some lying around your house and want to share.  It is almost like a little community, which in times like this is actually a pretty special thing to be able to admit.  As long as it keeps saving me money, I plan to keep using the site.  I try to enter promo codes, too, since I feel like it is my way of giving back to help out others.

 

So far the best I found was a Macy’s promotion code for $100 off.  While it was only a one time coupon, it worked out great during the holiday season.  I bought my mom this really nice white and red sweater and I think it goes great with the necklace my sister purchased for her.  It was originally $170 and way out of my budget, but with the coupon, I was able to get it down into the $78 range, after taxes, which did not break the bank.  My mom loved it and I felt good knowing that I finally was able to pick out a gift which she really likes.  At least I assume she does.  She wore it twice while she was in town and that was only for eight days!